I THINK the phrase is ‘busman’s holiday’.

This year’s Bell family vacation coincided with the 37th running of one of America’s biggest horse races – the Arlington Million in the suburbs of Chicago.

I was staying around half an hour from Arlington Racecourse so I couldn’t avoid the temptation to see how a major USA track celebrated its big day. The event dates back to 1981 when it became the first horse race to offer prize money of $1m.

Several British-trained horses have won the hefty prize since its inception but my interest wasn’t really about what horse was going to win. I am always looking how other racing and sporting venues entertain their customers.

Racing has got to continually look ahead in terms of how it improves the overall customer experience and Arlington definitely put on a great show.

They have a Grandstand to match any of the best in the UK in terms of facilities. There is a fantastic tiered restaurant overlooking the course and plenty of private suites too. But critically, the general punters have facilities as good as those offered to customers with deeper pockets.

There is room for thousands of people inside the spacious Grandstand with plenty of bars and food outlets. Outside a tree-lined Parade Ring creates a lovely setting for the horses to parade before each race.

They have an in-house TV channel to keep customers informed of what’s happening during the afternoon and a range of well-known singers providing entertainment prior to each of the big races.

There’s a railway station outside the track and thousands of parking spaces too.

With a population approaching nine million in the Chicago metropolitan region, they have a real opportunity to get more people through the turnstiles despite the fact horse racing faces huge opposition from baseball, basketball and American football.

Over recent decades, the driving force behind the course has been the chairman Richard ‘Dick’ Duchossois, who is now 97 years old but still retains incredible enthusiasm for the business.

As well as being an extremely successful businessman, he achieved the rank of Major during the Second World War and received the military decorations of a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars.

I met him the day before racing when he arrived at the course earlier than many, dressed impeccably in a smart suit. He shook everyone’s hand from the cleaners and the work riders on the track to the course managing director.

A truly remarkable man and it was an honour to meet him.

And finally, I wasn’t the only Brit in town. I met English jockey Sophie Doyle, who is now plying her trade Stateside, racehorse trainer Tony Mitchell, a former Brighton resident who has been working in the States since the late 1980s, and also Penny Ffitch Heyes, a former jump jockey in the UK, now working as a jockey’s agent in the USA.